Q&A: Andray Domise, the guy who could actually beat the Fords on their home turf
The Ford family has held north Etobicoke’s city council seat since 2000, when Rob Ford won his first election. This year’s campaign will be a little different, though: Doug Ford, the seat’s current occupant, won’t be running for re-election (instead, he’s focusing his efforts on the mayoral race as his brother’s campaign manager), and the Fords are trying to continue their family dynasty by foisting their 20-year-old nephew Michael on area voters instead. Twelve candidates are trying to stop young Mikey from fulfilling his destiny, including Andray Domise. He might just be the guy to do it. A financial planner born in Toronto to Jamaican parents, he registered as a candidate in April, and has since declared his decidedly un-Fordian views loudly and fearlessly (his Twitter, in particular, is unmissable). We caught up with Domise at Auntie Bell’s in Rexdale—his preferred interviewing venue—to talk about the Fords, racism and spending money on toilets.
So was there a specific moment for you when you realized that you wanted to get into city politics?
It was more of a buildup. I didn’t really have a “road to Damascus” moment. It was seeing the amount of underdevelopment that’s been taking place around here. If you speak to some of the people at their doorsteps, they’ll tell you that Doug Ford has done nothing for them. Not for years. Not a lot has been done except for lobbying for Deco Labels’ clients.
You’re in the heart of Ford Nation. The Fords have held this ward forever.
You’re going to want to put quotes around Ford Nation, because there is no Ford Nation. It’s a collective of really angry, disaffected, disenfranchised people. Ford is more of a rallying point for their anger and resentment. But are they Ford Nation supporters? Go and ask any random person what they think of Michael Ford running for city council in Ward 2, and they’re disgusted. I’m disgusted. I’ve got nothing against someone who is 20 years old running for public office as long as they’re suitably qualified, but he hasn’t done anything for the community and doesn’t have the proper education to learn about the issues and how to solve them.
Now, this is also your first foray into politics, correct?
I’ve been involved in politics since I was in university. This is my first time running as my own candidate. I wrote for the [University of Windsor] student newspaper, The Lance. My first foray in Toronto was working with Elections Canada, doing polls. I’ve worked on various campaigns. I worked on the Justin Trudeau leadership race, doing canvassing and phone calls.
So how do you take this ward from the Fords?
I think the level of trust that people have in the Ford brand has really diminished in the last four years. So there’s an ability to sort of wedge people away from the candidate, because at this point, he doesn’t deserve people’s support. If the city councillor is not invested in the community, then the community should not invest in the city councillor.
But if there’s one thing the Fords are good at, it’s campaigning.
They’re good at populist anger. Campaigning is actually going out and saying, “These are what the problems are. This is what we promise we’re going to be able to do for the community.” But that’s not what they’ve been doing. They’ve been riding the wave of populist anger against city hall. Rob Ford is such a relatable person. You feel that he’s just one of the guys, even though he’s a multi-millionaire. But you need someone to actually fight for you at city hall, and he’s out there voting “no” against everything. I don’t see him as a good campaigner. I see him as a good people person, but there’s a big difference.
Speaking of anger, in a recent Metro article, there’s an anecdote about you telling someone to “be the angry black dude.” Is populist anger something that you’re looking to tap into as well?
No. Some people feel that simply speaking in self-defense, and trying to add their own perspective, is viewed as an aggressive attack. If there’s a trope that there are angry black men out there, maybe that’s because there’s something for them to be angry about. I think a lot of them are angry because as a collective, we don’t feel like we’re succeeding on our own merits. We’re only succeeding when someone from the outside decides it’s time for us to succeed. So when I say that maybe you should be that angry black guy, what I mean is that you should be honest about what it is you’re upset about. And if you feel like you’re not being represented, then you should demand change. If people are going to stereotype you, that’s just what comes along with it.
Has anyone done more for black people than Rob Ford?
[Laughs.] You can have a look over on that wall and see who has done more for black people than Rob Ford has. [He points to a poster of Martin Luther King Jr.]
The Fords just seem to fabricate stuff like that out of nothing, don’t they?
They can’t say something without making it hyperbolic. They can’t say, “We’ve been friends with the African community.” It’s, “Nobody has done more for black people than the Fords have.” Why don’t you ask this fellow? [Domise points to candidate John Chambers, currently running for Ward 7, who happens to be nearby.] I’m pretty sure he could tell you. John, do you feel that nobody in the city has done more for black people than Rob Ford?
Chambers: Oh wow, that’s a hard question. I think he’s done some work for the black community.
Domise: I’m talking about anybody, period. He said that nobody has done more for the black community.
Chambers: I don’t believe that statement, but I guess we have to look at the numbers in order to analyze it. But it’s easy at this time for somebody to make a reference like that and then to be looking back to Mayor Lastman or Mayor Miller.
Domise: Off the top of my head: Tropicana Community Services, Black Business and Professionals Association, First Fridays, Association of Black Law Enforcers. There are so many people doing so much work that for someone to come and say, “Nobody has done more for the black community than I have,” not only does it make you look like a liar, it makes it seem like we can’t do anything for ourselves. If you’re going to show up to our events, eat our food, dance to our music, then turn around and say, “No funding for your youth programs, because those are hug-a-thug programs,” or, “No more funding for community housing,” if that’s what you’re going to do, step out of the way. As a community, we need to step up and stop letting this guy run the show. If you’re going to stay silent, you’re giving tacit approval.
[Domise and Chambers exchange business cards, and Chambers leaves.]
Domise: I wanted to show you that, because you saw how hard it was for him to come out and say the truth. It’s like all of us are afraid to say something.
What was your reaction to the video of Rob Ford speaking Jamaican patois?
You mean imitating Jamaican patois?
Some people say he actually spoke it well.
I had to laugh, I did. That having been said, it speaks to a really bad state of affairs where he can mock our culture and call himself one of us, and then associate with drug dealers and partake in the worst kind of behaviour. It’s sort of a cultural malaise where someone will imitate some of the worst aspects of our culture and call that our culture.
Etobicoke has a huge immigrant population, and it seems like the elected politicians there don’t really reflect that at all. Why do you think that’s the case?
Cultural fragmentation. There are, right now, 13 candidates registered for this election. And many of them are counting on support from their own communities to get elected, meaning that they’re not engaging well with other communities to create a dialogue. In a sense, Michael Ford is doing the same thing. We don’t know anything about him, but it’s assumed that we’ll recognize his name and that people who know his uncles will give him the ward. There’s no attempt at creating community dialogue whatsoever or a long-term vision for Ward 2.
Rob Ford seems to have created this idealistic notion that, through penny-pinching politics, you can cut taxes and increase services.
If the purpose of government is to never spend money, ever, then why wouldn’t we just get rid of the government and have banks run our daily lives? It’s not penny-pinching; it’s raw populism in its worst form. Which is to say, “Screw you, I’ve already got mine. Don’t try to take money from out of my pockets and give it to anybody else.” But we’re making investments as a city.
People seem to have bought into it.
Because there’s no counter-narrative. So you might have councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong criticizing a bathroom that costs money to build, or pink umbrellas and rocks. But actually, these are investments in the community to attract new homebuyers, literally hundreds of new residents all contributing to the economy. New businesses, new jobs. Isn’t that what we want as a city? So I don’t consider Ford a penny-pincher. I consider him a populist fraud.
We were talking earlier about the Fords making up statistics. Will that make it difficult for you when it comes time to debate?
Vampires and sunlight have a better relationship than the Ford family and actual facts. I don’t understand why people have such a hard time calling a lie a lie. I don’t really have a problem with them spouting lies throughout this election, because you just call it for what it is.
It’s interesting, because you recently spoke with Doug Ford on Newstalk 1010. You called him out, and he didn’t let you speak. He just ate up the rest of the airtime.
It’s because he was scared. I’m not small now, but I was a really small kid. The thing I learned about bullies is that when someone stands up to them, they run. It’s like that biblical phrase: “Resist the devil and he will flee.” Doug Ford is simply not used to people standing up to him. But I’m not scared of him or his money or any of that.
If Michael Ford wins, will that make you lose faith in the community?
I don’t expect to change things overnight. I registered on April 27, and these problems have been around for years. If by some chance he gets elected, it means I haven’t been able to gather enough trust and goodwill to have people think that I’m going to be a better candidate. So that’s entirely on me.
What do you make of the Star’s recent profile of him?
I can’t really have an opinion on it because I don’t know him or anything about him. I haven’t heard him speak. But given the fact that Michael Ford got a profile, and someone like John Chambers hasn’t got a profile, or Idil Burale in Ward 1—when you give someone publicity, it gives them automatic credibility. And to my understanding, Michael Ford hasn’t developed credibility.
Were you at Ford Fest?
Oh God, no. I was nowhere near it. I’m just not down for the circus. I was out knocking on doors.
What would be your first priorities in this ward?
Youth, transit, housing. Behind that, propery taxes. The feeling that I get from a lot of people is that for the amount of taxes that are paid out, they’re not getting a lot of value for it. For example, we’re tearing up roads all over Toronto, but we still have potholes. If you want to take the bus downtown, it’s going to take you an hour or an hour and a half. If we can just start with community development first, a lot of those other problems will start to take care of themselves.
What’s something about Andray that nobody else knows?
I have a fantastic sock collection. I try to match my socks with my attire. I accessorize.